Tour de France doping controversy

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Tour de France doping controversy

Postby palmspringsbum » Tue Jul 18, 2006 11:43 am

The San Jose Mercury News wrote:Posted on Tue, Jul. 18, 2006

Realists unite: Legalize performance-enhancing drugs on Tour

The San Jose Mercury News
By Joel Stein

Of all the sports events I could have picked to obsess over, the Tour de France hasn't done much for my manliness. Until now. That's because the day before this year's race, several top riders were thrown out for being under investigation for taking performance-enhancing drugs. My athletes not only suffer for hundreds of miles up in the Alps in the July heat, they also inject drugs like guys who date Kate Moss.

Although cycling is now definitively the most doped-up sport in the world, narrowly edging out the International Doping Championships, this scandal hasn't ruined my love of the sport. That's because I don't mind when my athletes take drugs to boost their performance.

Although ESPN commentators love to wax morally superior, I know that if everyone else were taking EPO and I knew it would help me compete in the tour, I would, too. If it weren't for the fact that I'm afraid of needles. And working out in the heat.

Sure, cheating is wrong, sort of by definition. But if everyone is cheating -- and a Los Angeles Times front-page investigative story strongly implied that Lance Armstrong was doping -- then it really isn't cheating. It's like everyone agreeing that the fault of the ball going out of bounds isn't the guy who purposely throws it at the other team, but the guy whose face it bounces off.

I understand steroids and EPO are probably dangerous. But being a 300-pound lineman and having other 300-pound linemen smash into you every Sunday is surprisingly bad for your joints. Driving a Chevy at 150 mph around a track hasn't always worked out well.

I don't want to go back to days of 30 home runs a season, when finding out if Tris Speaker would round second was as exciting as it got. I want to see feats of human impossibility, brought to us by the best equipment, nutrition, training and medicine available.

I also would like to see a sport where Zinedine Zidane just head-butts people. That made soccer, just for a moment, as good as hockey.

I don't think it's the cheating or the medical danger that makes people hate doping so much. They hate it only because it seems deeply unfair.

That's why, to level the playing field, we need to legalize doping.

As the pace of medical technology has sped up, we've panicked about its fairness: cloning, genetic enhancement, plastic surgery. Why, we wonder, should rich people get another advantage? The answer, of course, is because they're rich.

But it's not the ability to medically alter ourselves that gets us upset -- not when we take Klonopin for public speaking, Xanax for flights and marijuana for getting through that Al Gore movie. We mind only when science makes people better than us. ``Dateline NBC'' does a gooey congratulatory segment when Al Roker gets his stomach stapled, but US magazine abuses any starlets who look like they might have gotten Botox. If cloning were limited only to J. Dennis Hastert, no one would be bothered.

Like all new technologies, the lines of acceptability are moving rapidly. Not long ago, you went away for your cosmetic surgery, came home and denied it vehemently. Now I can't go anywhere without hearing women bragging about their work. Especially when I keep pestering them to tell me about their breasts.

The assumption that there's an inherent fairness to our natural state is ridiculous. Is it fair that some people are born better looking, that Armstrong has huge lung capacity, that I have this weird tuft of hair on my lower back? Where's the injection for that?

Technology is scary because it's change. On Saturday, the best of the B-level competitors remaining in the Tour, American Floyd Landis, was told by officials that he couldn't use his cool new aerodynamic handlebars. By next year, I'm guessing, everyone will be allowed to have them. I'm also guessing that by next year, even if he wins, I'll still be the only one who knows who Floyd Landis is.

Eventually, if they can make a safe form of steroids and EPO, the sports leagues will permit them, too. There will be nothing more wrong with that than letting pitchers extend their careers with Tommy John surgery or letting players be designated hitters.

If, in fact, Armstrong used drugs, will it make his comeback less incredible against a field of other doped-up athletes that he clearly out-prepared, out-trained and out-strategized? The sad part is that -- by demanding ultimate competitiveness in everything except medicine -- doping will have made him a liar. And we don't like that in people from Texas.

<hr class=postrule>
JOEL STEIN wrote this article for the Los Angeles Times.

<span class=postbold>See Also</span>: How RVD & SABU's Arrest Relates to the WWE Drug Policy

Last edited by palmspringsbum on Sun Aug 13, 2006 12:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Doping on Tour down to a science

Postby budman » Wed Aug 09, 2006 12:56 pm

The Bradenton Herald wrote:Posted on Wed, Aug. 09, 2006

Doping on Tour down to a science

New York Daily News

NEW YORK - Every evening as their bicycles zipped across the day's finish line, drained Tour de France cyclists with gaunt faces and sweat-soaked hair matted under their helmets would slide off the seats they had been riding through the French countryside.

Their bodies were drained of liquid, their muscles depleted of potassium and filled with carbonic and lactic acid.

While support staff from the teams gathered bikes and equipment to get ready for the next morning's run, the riders would stuff themselves with food and liquid, then retire to another phase of the race.

Some cyclists would take sterile bags and syringes out of packs and drain some of their blood to store overnight. They would take testosterone patches and place them on the scrotum to quickly absorb the rejuvenating hormone. Some would take a daily dose of growth hormone, or insulin, or insulin-like growth factor, or T3 thyroid medication, or epinephrine, all of which are nearly impossible to test for.

After a few hours, the testosterone patch comes off. Seven to nine hours later, the drug will be at peak effectiveness, and after 14-18 hours, it's out of the system altogether. Then a night's rest, pump the blood back into the body, back on the bike.

And off to do things the human body should not be able to do. If the system is followed to the letter, none of these performance-enhancing tactics should ever be detected.

"When you get to that level, you know how to play this game," says sports medicine physician John Sonzogni, the former team physician for the New Jersey Nets, assistant team doctor for the New York Giants and the medical director for both a men's and women's World Cup. "It's the same with the NFL, same with Major League Baseball: they know when to bring (their drug levels) back down."

The nightly drug routine was provided to the New York Daily News by a former steroid dealer who spoke on the condition of anonymity, and several physicians who looked it over say it makes perfect sense.

But as Tour de France winner Floyd Landis prepares to appeal his failed drug test, his saga has again exposed how easy and pervasive cheating is in cycling, just as sprinter Justin Gatlin's failed test has done in track and field.

Landis and sprinter Gatlin may have screwed up and been caught, anti-doping advocates and medical experts say, but they are hardly the only ones to cheat in their sports.

"One other thing that's happening now is that people are realizing the tests are not all that great," says Don Catlin, the director of the UCLA Olympic lab and the man who more or less invented anti-doping tests. "I know that, but I don't walk around advertising it."

He doesn't need to. The athletes know it all too well.

Simply put, medical experts say, the body cannot recover on its own quickly enough during a competition as grueling as the Tour de France has become and not at the speeds the cyclists now race. To keep the body from breaking down, they need drugs such as testosterone, growth hormone and insulin for repair, and drugs like erythropoietin to increase red blood cell production.

The steroid dealer interviewed by the Daily News, who has not worked with Landis, says he suspects that Landis was wearing a testosterone patch and forgot to remove it after a night of drinking, which could explain "why his number would be through the roof like that."

Maharam said it is also possible that Landis was using both testosterone and epitestosterone to beat the ratio test. The magic of BALCO's famous "cream" was that it contained both hormones, so the athlete would get additional testosterone but his or her testosterone to epitestosterone ratio would remain the same. Some athletes using testosterone inject themselves with epi-t just below the nipple, where the needle mark won't be noticeable. It's possible, Maharam says, that Landis was using both drugs but simply ran out of the epitestosterone.

"It's needed for added recovery and to get some killer instinct and aggressiveness," he says. Maharam says he thinks Landis may have been "arrogant and stupid and thought he wasn't going to be tested."

Most sophisticated cheaters know the testing protocols and have adapted their doping regimens as needed. In the Tour de France, the tour leader, stage winner and three random riders are tested, and Landis may not have expected to actually win the stage.

Not all steroid testing programs are identical, but they share some basic features. A league collects samples and sends them to a lab such as Catlin's. The lab puts the urine into two vials, an "A" and "B" sample, and begins testing the "A" in a mass-spectrometer. The machine looks for all known steroids - each has a distinct pattern - and compares the amount of testosterone to epitestosterone.

Because the average person's body produces both in the same amounts, if the testosterone level is four times greater than the epitestosterone, it is considered a positive test. That 4-1 t/e ratio, as it is known, is the test that both Landis and Gatlin failed. (The same steroid dealer the Daily News interviewed says it is likely that anti-doping was tipped off about Gatlin's regimen, so agents would know to test him when the levels were at their maximum.)

Once the t/e level is tripped, most sports leagues and federations - including almost every one of Catlin's clients - then have the lab do a carbon-isotope ratio (CIR) test, which can determine whether the athlete has used synthetic testosterone. Landis failed that test, too. The NFL and Major League Baseball opt for the CIR test only if testers think there is something fishy with the sample.

Catlin says the sagas of Landis and Gatlin might influence the press and public to push for more testing. It's a slow learning curve for everyone, he says.

"One of the things that's going to happen from the cases that are floating around out there is, I suspect, more requests for CI ratios. I can feel it already," Catlin says. "Everybody sort of understands what a drug test is for marijuana, or the layperson has an idea, but when you start talking about carbon-isotopes and atoms, they really tune out, and it happens with clients as well. These organizations are not run by chemistry professors. The world would be a different place if they were."

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